Steady Steering for Cadillac

ARLINGTON – The turmoil in General Motors’ executive ranks won’t hurt the launch or lifespan of the all-new, Arlington-made Cadillac Fleetwood, the general manager of GM’s luxury division said yesterday.

Motor Trend magazine named the Cadillac Seville Touring sedan the 1992 Car of the Year.

Motor Trend magazine named the Cadillac Seville Touring sedan the 1992 Car of the Year.

John Grettenberger, who is also a GM vice president, said Cadillac may serve as a model for what GM hopes to become.

Over the last two years the company has made several major new-car introductions, winning acclaim for technical and manufacturing advances.

Cadillac’s Seville and Eldorado models, along with its 4.6-liter Northstar engine have set new standards in one of the industry’s most competitive segments, analysts say.

The Fleetwood was recently launched with an advanced traction control system, anti-lock brakes and speed sensitive steering.

“We’re just introducing that car right now,” Grettenberger said. “We have every intention of keeping it as a mainstay in the product lineup as long as the market calls for such a car.

“We see opportunity for rear-drive, large luxury vehicles for some time in the future. Nothing has happened that I know of in the recent (corporate) reorganizations that have anything to do with shortening its planned life.

“We’re convinced it will be a much-needed member of the family.”

Grettenberger made his remarks at a news conference before accepting an award as Executive of the Year from the College of Business Administration at the University of Texas at Arlington.

In 1990, Cadillac won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Last year, the Automotive Hall of Fame named Grettenberger Industry Leader of the Year.

Motor Trend magazine named the Cadillac Seville Touring sedan the 1992 Car of the Year.

Grettenberger began his career with GM in 1963 as a clerk in GM’s Los Angeles Zone sales office. He was named to his current post in 1984.

Past winners of the annual award have been Harold Poling, chairman and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co., and George Fisher, chairman and CEO of Motorola, Inc.

As part of a corporation-wide realigning of its manufacturing operations, GM said in October that the Cadillac and Flint Automotive Divisions will be consolidated to form the Cadillac-Luxury Car Engineering and Manufacturing Division, covering all

front-wheel-drive large and luxury cars.

Part of the division will continue to focus only on Cadillac.

Every Cadillac model, except the Fleetwood, will be built at the company’s Hamtramck plant. The Fleetwood is made by the 3,800 employees of GM’s Arlington assembly plant.

Cadillac dealers have expressed fears that the company would begin to draw too much design and technical expertise from Cadillac, eroding sales and halting the division’s recent momentum.

But Grettenberger said Cadillac will continue as a maker of distinctive luxury automobiles and won’t be asked to give up technological developments to other divisions.

“In a four-year period we will have dramatically changed and improved everything that we have,” he said.

“Going into a constricted capital scenario with that kind of a backlog of newly introduced products puts us in a real good position.

“But everybody is going to have to share some of the pain in terms of the investment available for all programs.”

He said Cadillac, however, will continue to play the role of GM’s technology flagship.

While Buick won’t inherit the Northstar engine, some advanced portions of the power plant could be applied to other engines for GM cars.

The Northstar is a 4.6-liter V-8, considered the most

sophisticated engine for front-wheel-drive luxury cars. It is teamed with the 4T80-E transmission to create a powertrain standard that auto critics have praised for its smooth, quiet operation, quality and reliability.

“We intend to keep right on rolling with new technology in the Cadillacs,” he said. “We think that is one of our roles.”

Dealers and customers are praising the new Fleetwood,

Grettenberger said, for its traction control and air bag systems.

The car comes with both passenger and driver-side air bags as standard equipment.

A traction-control system monitors the speed of each wheel using sensors to provide continuous information to electronic brake-control modules.

If the computer determines that one or both of the rear wheels are beginning to spin, it reduces wheel spin by selectively applying rear brakes and relaxing the throttle to decrease engine power.

The system was one of the more difficult adjustments Arlington’s work force had to make in beginning production of the new car.

But Grettenberger said Fleetwood quality rivals that at GM’s best plants.

“It is obviously a regional car and is doing extremely well in this part of the country, south Florida and in the Northeast,” Grettenberger said.

“The fit and finish are getting a lot of good comments. I think from a start-up situation there is probably better fit and better finish than we have had at some Northern plants.

“They (Arlington’s management and work force) have done a good job of containing their start-up difficulties and making sure the cars when they release them are right.”

Author: Michael D. Towle; Star-Telegram Writer

Copyright 1992, 1994 STAR-TELEGRAM INC.